Caution – spoilers in this review.
I was originally going to give this a two star rating because I thought this was a self-published author and this was her first attempt at a crime series. While this is the author’s first attempt at a crime novel, this is not the author’s first book, nor is this a self-published work. This book actually has a publisher (Limitless Publishing LLC).
This is why I ultimately bumped it from two stars down to one.The concept of this book wasn’t bad, but the actual writing was less than stellar. I had issues with so many parts of this book that I actually took notes so I could remember them all. The positive was that I read the entire book (so maybe this actually deserves one and a half stars).
I would really like to see this author succeed, because I think she actually has talent, but I think she tried to wrap too much into this story to do it justice. I think with some proper editing, some good beta readers, and hard-line revisions, this book could really knock it out of the ballpark.
1. Possibly, I am not the target audience.
I am a 40-something mom of three (two are teenagers). The reason I say that I am not the target audience is because there were a few things that struck me as irritating and, frankly, not very believable. First, I don’t know people that talk the way the characters in her book do. Most men don’t repeatedly say “Damn, girl!” Maybe that’s just my profession. Maybe cops say that all the time. I’m not a police officer, I wouldn’t know.
Also, this quote: “Even at the ripe age of thirty-six…” So, does that make me, at 41, older than dirt? Maybe that was supposed to be funny, but most books that I read usually have one of the characters complaining about feeling old, not the narrative stating that if you’re over 35 you’re washed up.
2. Rivers are made of fresh water, not salt water.
Yes, this is nit-picky, I know, and probably most people wouldn’t pick up on this detail or even care about this, but this bothered me. There were several instances where the author states that Carma took a deep breath of the “salty river air.” I’m pretty sure I understood where the author was going, but river air shouldn’t be salty. Ocean water is salty. Seawater can be salty. River water is not salty unless you have serious issues with intrusion because of too much water demand (like we have here in the Sacramento Delta).
The author also makes a comment about one of the characters coming up from the salty water of the creek. Creeks are also fresh water, so, again, unless you have saltwater intrusion, there shouldn’t be any salt in the creeks. And so ends my water quality lesson for the day. We can also refer back to point one of my not being the target audience – I doubt that a water/wastewater engineer was her intended reader.
3. The second murder suspect, Ronald
“Isn’t Ronald a white kid?” Yes. Yes he is, and that is why it is weird for him to be poor and live on the wrong side of the tracks? Can white people not be poor? But we’ll explain that away because the officer who said that is from New York. And in New York, all white people are rich? I still don’t get it. Never mind. Let’s move on….
I don’t understand why Ronald was killed. This, to me, is a major story flaw. There was no reason to murder him. I’ll explain (warning, this may be a spoiler). Ronald finds a photo on his flash drive that supposedly cracks a part of the case wide open. When he discovers this photo, he panics and decides to hide the memory stick in his locker at school. This is what gets him killed (I think). This memory stick is the focus of a couple of points in the story, including the (very weak) red herring suspect.
But we still don’t know why he was killed. The author could have had him come into the police station with the flash drive and hand it over. She could have had Ronald’s dad find the thing and turn it in. He could have dropped it in the school hallway. Why did he have to die? I can sort of figure out why the killer would have gone after Ronald, but I don’t see how he would have known where Ronald would have been in order to do it. The murder didn’t fit, and added nothing to the story. I think that the author would have been better off leaving it out and focusing more on other character development (like backstory on Carma, because I really don’t care about this detective one bit).
“Mike looked from his daughter to Carma, desperation shooting out of his eyes.” (Like fricken laser beams pew pew!)
He has to be one of the weakest characters I have ever come across. He is Carma’s five-second love interest, has sex with 17 year old, is our 2-second red herring suspect, and finally tragically dies by slashing his wrists with his keys while in jail. He made me want to shoot BB’s into my eyes so I wouldn’t have to read about him. Refer to item three about removing Ronald’s murder. Spending more time developing Mike’s character would have gone a long way here.
5. Bad police work
“Carma looked up from the book in shock. That beautiful all-American girl who was seemingly perfect in every way had an abortion a few months ago” EYE ROLL. And then Carma goes on to hide the evidence to protect Missy’s parents. Carma later goes on to say that if she had actually read the diary, she would have known who the killer was sooner. Huh, guess that’s why you don’t hide evidence.
Then there is the bringing in and questioning Mike for Missy’s murder. No internal affairs, just Carma’s partner interviewing another cop. Because that’s how it works in the small town, apparently. And not one other officer thinks to check Mike’s pockets before putting him in a jail cell? And nobody checks in on him after they lock him up. For all the work the author supposedly did on the forensics, she missed researching some very basic police procedures.
6. Grammar, word choice, and slang
Commas can be a beautiful thing. They can also be distracting when misused. This book was full of fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices. If I hadn’t been reading it on my kindle, I would have been tempted to break out my red pen and start correcting errors. I caught myself rereading several paragraphs because I couldn’t understand what was written. That is never a good sign.
“It was a bath towel saturated with blood”… “it’s still damp.” The above conversation would work if the next line were a sarcastic comment like “you think?” But sadly, it wasn’t. This was a serious crime scene discussion in the book and the sarcastic comment was from me. If a towel is sitting in a pool of blood, I’m betting it’s not just damp, it’s probably – what’s the word I’m looking for – SATURATED.
And finally, there is the issue of slang. Sometimes it works, but in this story, it didn’t. We all use slang in our daily lives, but seeing it written in a novel can be jarring. For example, “I’ll see you in a couple of days.” That’s how we see it written usually. When talking, especially if we’re talking quickly, the “of” comes out sounding like “a.” Unfortunately, in this book, that was how it was written “couple a days.” That is technically how it sounds, but seeing it written that way isn’t cool, it’s jarring.
- It appears that the author did try to research the forensics, although there wasn’t a lot of that in the book.
- The concept was good. I could see this as a made for TV cop drama (but maybe with better editing)
- This could make a decent series (again with better editing and more focus on character development – don’t try to cram so much into one book)
I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Part of me is really rooting for this author. I’d like to see her succeed. I know she has a second book out, but I don’t know if I will pick it up to see if the writing has matured. Part of me wants to see if this book was simply the awkward start to something great, but the other part of me fears that maybe this is all there is – poor grammar, bad character development, and misused slang.